Durham Cathedral was lit up blue and yellow on Monday 11 April, as visitors were invited to take part in a day of activities to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine and all those who are impacted by war. 

As the crisis in Ukraine continues, people gathered for an evening vigil outside the cathedral to pray for peace and hope. Durham Cathedral’s Choral Scholars performed a sung prayer for peace especially for the vigil, followed by a minute’s silence. 

Visitors who also booked a ticket to former BBC Correspondent Bridget Kendall’s lecture on Russia and Ukraine donated a total of £1300 to the Red Cross’s Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

The cathedral’s services on 11 April focused on prayers for peace, and chaplains and the local community said prayers every half hour, including a native Ukrainian, staff and students from Durham University, and local residents. 

Sue Snowdon, H.M. Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, was one of the members of the community to lead a prayer at the cathedral. She says, “We cannot imagine the suffering and fear the people of Ukraine are experiencing, the effects of violence and brutality on young and old, their homes and communities shattered. This is a dark and worrying time and yesterday’s day of prayer was important, as we as a community came together to pray for peace and in an act of solidarity for the people of Ukraine. The response of visitors, who stopped, listened and quietly reflected was most moving and reinforced the significance of the prayers.

Ukrainian flags decorated with messages of hope, made by local school children, greeted visitors as they approached Durham Cathedral as a Ukrainian flag flew from the top of the cathedral’s tower. Younger visitors had the opportunity to make flags and plant sunflower seeds.

The Reverend Canon Charlie Allen, Canon Chancellor at Durham Cathedral says, “The current situation invites us to show our solidarity with the people of the Ukraine and those affected by current events, but also to reflect on our vocation to pray for all in need and to help ease their burdens in any way that we can. We are in the process of establishing a chapel here at the cathedral dedicated to prayers of peace and justice for all people, so that our visitors have this opportunity just as we do daily in our acts of worship.”

After the vigil, former BBC Foreign Affairs reporter Bridget Kendall gave an insightful lecture to a busy cathedral, drawing on decades spent reporting on Russia’s role on the world stage, and her personal encounters with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A recording of this first event of the Durham Cathedral Institute will be available to watch on Durham Cathedral’s Youtube channel in the next few days.

As County Durham celebrates making the shortlist to be crowned the UK’s City of Culture 2025, the Day of Prayer, vigil and lecture provided public opportunities to reflect on current affairs and issues affecting County Durham.